Pendle Live (Stream)!

Dianne Mason, Pendle Cafe Scientifique

 

In April, Pendle Café Scientifique experimented with streaming our café live on the Internet. We declare the result a great success!

 

Our idea was to use available equipment - nothing special or expensive: a standard mobile phone (Alcatel One-Touch), a reasonable camera with a microphone (Windows Livecam) and a PC to connect between the camera and the Internet. The venue where the café meets has free wi-fi.

The stream has to be sent to a web-based sharing service - we chose YouTube because it was the easiest to use and the most robust. YouTube has detailed instructions for streaming live events but we were able to get the stream working within a handful of clicks.

We did several tests before the actual café, to make sure we could keep the stream going throughout the cafe and that the video and sound quality were acceptable. We also had a recovery plan if the system crashed. We tested on a digital clock, which allowed us to establish what kind of time lag there would be, and a home video playing on a loop.

Setting up the equipment was straightforward: a table for the computer, somewhere unobtrusive for the camera to go and a few judiciously placed chairs to stop people tripping over the wires. The mobile phone was logged into the wi-fi and the PC into YouTube. 

Thanks to the testing, we didn’t have too many issues to sort out on the night. We didn’t want the streaming to disturb the speaker or the audience, so we chose to use just one static camera, set up in a position that gave a reasonable angle of view. This took some experimenting to work out. For some reason, the PC’s log-in to the wifi appeared to hang but we solved that by re-starting from scratch.

We put information about how to view the livestream on our Facebook page and also in the email we sent out before the meeting. It’s really a fairly simple process - find the right YouTube channel and watch.

We often audio-record meetings but this is the first time we’ve attempted a livestream. We don’t intend to stream every meeting but if the need arise we know we have the skills. And it was a very interesting experiment!